Education International
Education International

Finland: “Education: A Tool for Peace and Development”

published 27 January 2015 updated 6 February 2015

Future development goals after 2015 must have education and teachers at their core. And educators must speak with one voice to defend and promote quality education for all, their professional status, and working conditions.

That was the strong message delivered by Education International (EI) Senior Coordinator Dennis Sinyolo to 14,000 participants, mostly teachers, at the 2015 EDUCA Fair in Helsinki, Finland, on 23-24 January. The theme of the event, organised by EI affiliate Opetusalan Ammattijärjestö (OAJ), was “Education: A Tool for Peace and Development”.

In his presentation, Sinyolo also emphasised that teacher solidarity worldwide is vital. And he called for a holistic approach to addressing social and developmental issues, linking education to policy, legislation, and societal response.

Resources needed

Too many children around the world do not have teachers, he said. In fact, 3.4 million more primary teachers and 5.1 million lower secondary teachers are needed to provide all children with basic education by 2030, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS).

The status of teachers is being undermined, Sinyolo added. A major challenge to quality education is the recruitment of unqualified teachers and the casualisation of the teaching profession through short-term contracts in many parts of the world.

International perspectives

At the Fair, the biggest education event in Finland, international perspectives on education were also presented by other high-level education and trade union activists.

A current perspective on education in Europe was given by Martin Rømer, Director of the EI European region, ETUCE. Edem Adura, Chairman of UNESCO´s Education for All task force, addressed the shortage of teachers in developing countries. “Peace lives in classrooms,” he said, adding that “all children should have the right to education wherever they live”.

The “testing-mania” in US education was explained by Lily Eskelsen García, President of US EI affiliate National Association of Education. Many Finnish teachers, who enjoy great independence in their work, were shocked by Eskelsen García ’s story, as, in Finland, “there are no national tests for pupils and no ranking of teachers”, according to OAJ president Olli Luukkainen.

Pressure on Finnish government

Luukkainen highlighted that, with this year’s theme for the EDUCA Fair, the OAJ wanted to remind politicians and decision makers that their choices are crucially important for the future.

In Finland, he said, elections to the national parliament will be held this April. This is important as Finland has suffered many cuts in education due to the effects of the economic crisis.

The OAJ president asked all political party leaders on the EDUCA Fair’s panel about “the importance of education as a tool for peace and development and education as a part of the Millennium Development Goals and Post-2015 Development Agenda”. He asked them to explain how they are going to develop education after the elections.

All the political party leaders agreed that there is no room for new cuts in education, promising that the previous financial cuts in education have been enough. Thousands of teachers heard those promises. “Teachers do not forget if party leaders do not keep to what they promised,” Luukkainen pointed out.

Note: Sinyolo’s PowerPoint presentation at the EDUCA Fair is available here.